Hurricane Dorian: Quest for sand to protect from flooding prompts dueling enterprises at Jacksonville’s Beaches
Residents have gotten into disputes over sand being sold or stolen in Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach in Duval County.
A sand fight erupted in Atlantic Beach on Friday, but not the kind of tussle with kids flinging sticky fistfuls of wet sand.
The sand in question in this fight involved free sand and sand being sold for $5 a bag. This played out about the same time police were stopping people trying to bag sand on the beach.
When Shawn Welk passed by a mountain of sand being sold off A1A in Mayport on Friday, he became incensed and confronted the man behind the operation.
The way Josh Schrutt sees it, he was trying to provide a service to those in flood-prone areas, like himself.
Schrutt said he paid over $700 for the sand and bags and put his own sweat into bagging it himself, so why shouldn’t he try and break even or even make a small profit.
“I was furious,” said Welk, when he saw the sand for sale. “Not cool with that.”
Welk was determined to put Schrutt out of business and help his neighbors.
Schrutt, who lives off the Intracoastal Waterway in Jacksonville, said sand bags saved his house from flooding after Hurricane Irma. He said 95 percent of the people that stopped by his mountain of sand and sandbag pile were elated to find the sand already bagged.
Welk thinks Schrutt is trying to capitalize on the impending storm and he told Schrutt what he thought.
“I chewed that guy out,” Welk said.
After the confrontation, Welk, who owns Bavarian RennSport and Media Made Fresh, went to work trying to find sand to buy so that he too could have a mountain of sand that he’d give away for free.
He couldn’t get anyone to deliver sand to the Beaches. But he was able to get plenty of dirt delivered by Dirtworks, Inc.
When Dirtworks found out why Welk wanted the dirt, it refused to charge him.
“I’m not doing this for the publicity,” said Welk after a reporter stopped by to talk about his operation. “I’m doing this because it is the right thing to do.”
Schrutt said a few others confronted him about the price and — when told it was $5 for a roughly 40-pound bag — they said they’d go to the beach and get the sand for free.
People thinking about doing just that — going to the beach to fill up sandbags — should think again.
State law forbids removing sand from the beach. Atlantic Beach police thwarted would-be sand bandits Friday.
Melissa James walked the beach in Neptune on Friday and snapped a couple of photos of sand thieves and posted them to an Atlantic Beach Facebook page. In her post, she asked if taking sand from the beach was legal.
Hundreds took notice and chimed in, including folks that work for the city of Atlantic Beach. City employees did some research and found the state statute citing that the removal of sand was unlawful.
Kevin Hogancamp, the city’s interim director, said police will enforce the law.
As area governments prepare for the storm, the city of Atlantic Beach made the decision to have sand trucked in so residents can try and protect their homes from the expected heavy rains and storm surge. The city of Jacksonville opted to not provide sand to Duval County residents unlike neighboring counties.
The sand in Atlantic Beach is free to Atlantic Beach residents. Residents must bring their own bags and bag the sand themselves. The same goes for Welk’s operation.
Aside from dirt, Welk was able to get some sand that was on his property. He said the sand and dirt are free for those that need it. He said Friday he was considering drawing up a waiver for those interested. The waiver, he said, would promise that those taking the sand and dirt would not turn around and sell it. Welk’s dirt and sand can be picked up at 2051 Mayport Road.
Just as social media exploded about the post with people stealing sand, Schrutt took a beating from some people on social media. So Friday when the storm appeared to strengthening, Schrutt made the decision to offer un-bagged sand for free. Schrutt also posted on social media that he’d throw in some free pizza. Bagged sand will still be sold for $5 a piece.
“Local business man is giving away free pizza and free sand,” wrote Schrutt, a charter boat captain. “Just bring your bags and shovels. We are also selling bags that have been pre-filled if you don’t want to bag it yourself. Come on out, it’s a pizza party in preparation for the hurricane.”
Schrutt’s large bags of sand and now free sand pile can be found at 2719 A1A in Mayport. He’s throwing in free pizza Saturday to show he’s not an exploiter.
Atlantic Beach’s free sand can be bagged and collected at Jack Russell Skate Park, 800 Seminole Road.
Eileen Kelley: (904)359-4104